Jottings from a rasta shopping trip-Part 2

…a frisson of electric fear swept through the streets as we emerged blinking into the light of early evening and a couple of grey painted vans raced past with some dangerously swarthy men hanging out off their sides, looking around with sharp eyes for any stall wallahs still to draw their wares off the street into the side lanes. Given how spiffy clean the street was, surely some kindly soul within the van wallah entourage had done a tip off to them stall guys, who brought out their stalls, barely the van had turned the corner.
“Kya dhande ke time par time khota karte hain,” said one tshirt stall man, busy hanging up signs that said Rs 100, Rs 150, Rs 175. The niece gravitated towards them stalls like a fly to honey, cat to catnip, me to dessert, you get my drift. Trying to reel her in and point her towards Khodal and such stores, with airconditioning, was not helping. “Kiran maami, can I take this, and this, and this….” her eyes were sparkling with excitement. And given that I wouldn’t be able to get into them tshirts even if I cut them open down the front, I was only too pleased that someone else could find things that fit. (What is it about this generation and their extreme slimness? The niece has a very hearty appetite, I noticed and is blessed enough to stay rail slim). Many tops were procured. I salivated enough to make the road slick at the chappals and shoes on display at the stalls along the street, and fainted a couple of times hearing the prices, thankfully didnt fall and cause further potholes on a road which already was in need of dire repairs.
Of course, how could a trip to Hill road be complete without stuffing face at the Elco Arcade food place. It used to be a stall in the distant past, today I looked up in wonder to find it a two storey place with proper seating, etc. And remember the legend of the bhel wallah who moved on to Mercs and such like, as narrated by the mater, an old Bandra resident. We were asked politely if we would like to sit within cosily airconditioned premises, I declined politely. That would make it sitting at any other restaurant. I wanted the real experience, sitting on a stool, elbow jostling with folks for maneouverability in order to get morsel to mouth. Ragda Pattice, gane ka ras and sev puri was ordered, devoured and burped in contentment. There is a strange comfort in revisiting childhood haunts, even if the taste is never quite as good as what your memory of it suggests.
Replenished we set out again to traipse down stalls right upto Cheap Jack and St Stanislaus. We picked up a Rooney Man U Tshirt for the child who would probably do a rolling on the floor tantrum had I entered the house bearing no gifts for him. The night was getting darker above us, the shopping still remained infinite, but it was time to leave and take the long auto journey back to the boondocks where we lived. We and the many bags we were carrying. We bundled ourselvs into an auto and counted bags and heads and went off home. Counted bags when we emerged. And when we reached home, I realised I had not bought a thing for myself. Not. One. Thing. Can someone recommend me for some award please? Or is it old age? Or was it the more prosaic reason of not wanting to hear the dreaded words, “Madum, aapke size mein nahin hain”? Anyway. There’s always a next time. I shall go alone. Sneakily. With no one to witness said humiliation when the not in your size statement happens. And of course, thankfully, shoes and slippers will always be available in my size.

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About Kiran Manral

Author of The Face At The Window, ( 2016), Karmic Kids, All Aboard (2015) , Once Upon A Crush (2014) and The Reluctant Detective (2011).
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